Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone.

11th SA Pentecost

11 Pentecost 11.18 “On Feasting, Not Dieting” John 6:22-35

A good diet is so important, don’t you think? Lots of people tell me so. My head spins when I hear all the different diets friends and family are on these days. There’s low carb, high carb, South Beach, no-beach, beach-body (no South of France beach diets that I know of, which I think is an oversight), glass of red wine every day diets, no alcohol at all diets, Mediterranean diet, Paleo (cave-man diet, yeah!), Eden diet (very California—all nuts and berries), cooked meat, raw meat, no meat, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, GMO, non GMO, and of course, gluten free diets (I liked the part in Deadpool II when he tells his wife that he’s been out saving the world by shooting all the gluten in the world into space where it can’t not not hurt us anymore 🙂

Myself, for decades, I’ve been on a fairly rigorous diet of cheeseburger, fries, and a shake (with apple pie for desert, donuts, candy, and sugary breakfast cereal—swapping out BBQ or Tex-Mex for burgers now and again, for variety) and I feel great. Was on the French bistro diet the last month or so (which involves a fair number of burgers, French-style, surprisingly) with lots of butter, pastry, and Creme Brulee for desert, and that was good too. Lost a few pounds on that one actually, though maybe the 10 mile a day hike (with plenty of stairs/hills and the occasional open water Mediterranean swim) that Bon had us on contributed?

Anyway, sorry if that makes you hungry, but food is the topic in our Gospel today (at least you can’t smell the cinnamon buns during our services 🙂 and I suspect Jesus means to whet our appetites for good food on this, donut Sunday. Food was on all their minds as Jesus had just fed more than 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish (surprised the loaves and fish diet is not more popular, with some white wine to wash it down. With all the fish they ate, don’t you think they usually served white wine at table, like we do here? A nice, crisp, dry white is so good with bread and fish).

Anyway they were slow on the uptake (as usual!) figuring out that Jesus provided this feast for over 5,000 with just five loaves and two fish, miraculously. By the time they finally do figure it out, Jesus is long gone, pulling His favorite trick of slipping away in a boat with the Apostles at evening, or; as in this instance, also walking on the water to the other side of the sea. Why didn’t Jesus just swim? Well, don’t you have mothers? You shouldn’t swim for at least an hour after you eat. So He had to walk! It was probably good only the Apostles saw that water-walking thing, or this conversation with the crowd would have gone on well into the night.

But there they are, 5,000+ finally caught up with Him (though interrogating Him at the beginning, you notice, on how He got here apparently without a boat, suspicious more miracles have occurred) and they’re hungry again. Or are they? They ask Him how/when He got there. And Jesus said they seek Him not because they saw the signs, but because they ate of the loaves and were filled. They could be hungry, or they may just want to see more miracles. I suspect the food Jesus gives sticks to our ribs longer than regular food, but when people talk about food, like someone is doing now, it does have a way of making you think you’re hungry. Sorry, again…

Jesus says “do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you…” And they go: “what shall we do(!) that we may work the works of God?” In other words: “what kind of work produces the food of the gods, the food of eternal life? Give us instructions and we’ll work our tails off to get on that diet!” But Jesus responds with my favorite line in all the Gospels: “This is the work of God: that you believe in Him whom He sent.” And they demand a sign, a wonderful work, some miracle that will satisfy their demands for evidence, historical fact, proof of deity so they can convince themselves to firmly hold in their minds the correct propositions that merit eternal life.

But they don’t get it, and here we’re at the very crux of the Gospel—the beating heart of Christianity that people have been hearing, yet failing to perceive for a couple thousand years. And an Athanasius, an Augustine, a Bernard, a Luther, a Sasse comes along and takes the work out of our workout, out of Christ’s Gospel entirely, restores the free, pure gift of God that it is, and yet; most of the church steams along starving themselves on fad diets, working their fingers to the missional bone, working for something that can’t be earned or merited by works, but comes to beggars, free—only as a gift—as undeserved, utterly gratuitous charity…

The more things change, the more they stay the same. When Jesus says “This is the work of God: that you believe in Him whom He sent” He means exactly what He says. It’s God’s work (not ours!) to believe in Jesus. And this faith comes not by anything we do, but by His Word, His Sacrament, by eating the Body and Blood of Jesus, the bread of life, by faith alone, His gift entirely and alone, no works of ours required—in fact, working for this bread destroys it just like trying to gather it on the Sabbath in our Old Testament reading made it disappear!

They betray their works-righteous prejudice by thinking that the “he” who gave their fathers the manna in the wilderness was Moses. Jesus corrects them. Moses didn’t give them anything. God gave them the bread from heaven! And Jesus is the true bread of heaven, the bread of life, so that whoever comes to Him shall never hunger; and whoever believes in Him shall never thirst.

I think if you get this Gospel, you get Christianity. There’s nothing more to it than this: coming to Jesus, as beggars to the King’s banquet Table, eating His flesh, drinking His blood, the bread of heaven, the drink that satisfies our deepest thirst, so that we never hunger, never thirst, anymore. Now, the Jews at that time did not get it. And most of Christendom for the last 2,000 years has not gotten it much better. We keep turning the Gospel into a work that we do, a diet that we concoct and follow by strenuous self-denial. We think, contrary to Scriptures, that by missional efforts, we can prove our own faith and make others believe. Or we make Christianity a set of ideas, proved by history and science, digested by mental effort, cajoling ourselves (and others) to hold these truths as self-evident facts; and we call this hard work “faith” and think that by it we gain heaven…

We can’t stand to be beggars after all—bums, hobos, charity cases who live off the King’s largess. We’re all old-school Smith Barney: we want to earn it. Because only then can we boast of heaven as something we’ve deserved. This is the lie that the devil sold Adam and Eve on in the Garden. That, by their own efforts, by the diet God forbids (but that we follow by strenuous self-denial) we can be gods, ourselves. But, by that diet, came only death and misery and suffering that goes on still today…

At His Table, Jesus takes us off all diets; He serves us a Feast, a Beggars Banquet—Food of the Gods, the Feast of Eternal Life. Come to Him, open handed, empty hearted, believing, receiving; and Peace, surpassing all understanding, guards body and soul in Christ Jesus. Amen.


Advent Vespers – Wednesdays, 7:00 p.m.

16 December 2018  3rd Sunday Advent

8:30 Matins

11:00 Divine Service with Communion

9:45 Sunday School – children ages 3 through high school

Adult Bible Class with Pastor Martin


Our Savior Lutheran Church is a confessional Lutheran church in Raleigh, North Carolina, belonging to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We are located at: 1500 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27608.

For directions, use 742 Nash Street, Raleigh.